He’d been spending a lot of time at Devin’s. Devin, a spotty fifteen year old who lived in Eugene’s building, was not someone the Lyra would typically hang out with. He was not a fan of arts and crafts, didn’t wear glitter, and never showed any interest in hauntings and apparitions which made for very dull company.
But Devin had never once tried to trip Eugene or called him names and - most appealingly - his apartment had cable and Eugene’s didn’t.
As long as Eugene brought round some nachos Devin didn’t mind a scrawny thirteen year old taking up space on his couch. Devin watched a lot of survivalist shows and there was one that followed the exploits of a man named Wade Winkleman that Eugene particularly enjoyed. Wade was six-foot and burly with big forearms and twinkling eyes AND he spoke within a fancy accent so you just knew he was trustworthy. Wade did all sorts of crazy and daring things - like climb rocks and eat insects and drink his own pee - all so that if someone like Eugene ever got stranded in the Sahara desert or a deadly South American rainforest they would know what it took to survive. Eugene was particularly impressed when Wade slept inside a camel carcass and tried to replicate the feat. But being a bit short on dead mammals he had improvised by attempting to spend the night in the laundry hamper as it was the only place he could think of that might come close to matching the unpleasantness of nestling against rotting flesh. Even if the laundry hamper incident had been less than a success (he’d pulled the plug prematurely after puking in a sock) Eugene felt that he was getting a well-rounded education. Thanks to Wade he was ready to fight skunks and eat locusts. Yup, Eugene Hardie was totally badass and ready for the real world.
But Rocky Mountain International was a separate beast.
Wizards, ghosts, and friends who kissed friends was not the real world, and Eugene didn’t know if he was equipped to face it alone. In previous years he’d always had Leopold by his side and now Eugene was just supposed to know how to go it alone? It wasn’t okay and it definitely wasn’t fair. Leo had just abandoned them all. He’d just taken off in a car to get hit by a bus or starve to death on some deserted highway because he hadn’t caught the Wade Winkleman episode on skinning snakes for soup. Eugene couldn’t think about it without crying so how was he supposed to manage school, and class, and evil spirits?! Maybe in a year or three. After he’d masted wood carving and could tickle some trout. Then he would be ready. But some people *cough*mom*cough* didn’t believe in letting fourteen year olds set their own agendas. This had come as a real shock to Eugene and he’d flopped to the floor in despair and skipped a whole meal in protest - it had been tough but he’d managed to hold out until lunch without tucking into some cockroaches.
If he had to go back to school he would not be doing it with a smile. Well. Maybe, he’d risk just a little smile, but definitely no teeth on show. He wasn’t even wearing anything colourful, just a little silver glitter in his hair and some pink lace up boots. He’d even smudged black liner around his eyes and did his best not to skip as he made his way toward the green flames. He’d grown taller over the summer which had increased his injury rate substantially but it was the thought of being seen appearing jolly when his brother was basically dead that kept him from moving with joy rather than a sudden concern for his limbs.
“I’m sorry, was I in your way?”
Eugene blinked. He had not even noticed Norah standing there and had been about to knock right into her.. “Huh? Oh. No,” he mumbled and slipped to his knees. He then rolled along the ground before coming to an abrupt stop and curing inward to rest in the fetal position. He turned his face in the direction of Norah’s shoes. “Hey, can you feed me an egg roll?”